The nation's oldest craft brewer, the 127-year-old Anchor Brewing Company, is facing impending closure — unless a last-minute effort from its workers can pull together enough money to run the brewery as a co-op before the end of July.
Founded in 1896, amidst the frenzy of the California Gold Rush, the company has fallen on tough times before. It survived the catastrophic 1906 San Francisco earthquake and even navigated the dark era of prohibition — during which no official records of the company's activities were kept — before resuming operations in 1933. Anchor also overcame financial difficulties that forced its closure in 1959. The company blames its latest woes on a bitter combination of inflation, competition and a hangover from the pandemic — which the company has never fully recovered from.
Just one more
The competition part of the puzzle is hard to overstate. There are now over 9,700 breweries in the US as of 2022, more than triple the number from a decade ago. Beer aficionados wonder if there's still room for yet another take on the ubiquitous IPA. The Brewers Association, a trade group based in Colorado, forecasts that 2023 will witness the fewest brewery openings in over a decade. The once overflowing industry may have finally reached its tipping point.
To make matters more complicated, consumer preferences have evolved. Non-alcoholic beverages, such as kombucha, have been on the rise and spirits have gained in popularity. In light of these changes, the Anchor Brewing Company's fight for survival is not just a battle against the pandemic, but a struggle to adapt to shifting tastes and preferences.
The Super Bowl's commercials are almost as famous as the football itself, and beer brands have long been the dominant force when it comes to the big game's advertising. However, new figures from the Distilled Spirits Council, a spirits-industry group, shows it is spirit-makers that have the latest bragging rights, as spirit supplier revenues surpassed beer for the first time last year.
Indeed, liquor suppliers raked in $37.6bn in 2022, a 42% share of the total US alcohol market, helped by a 36% surge in sales for pre-mixed cocktails, along with rising demand for tequila and American whiskey. The sector has been on a 13-year growth spurt, gaining market share every year, taking it now past beer, which as recently as 2000 had 58% of the market.
America's love for a cold one isn't fading, but the latest data could be a sign of where things are heading as cocktail culture grows and bar-goers look for variety. Spirits may soon be a staple of those Super Bowl ads too.